People at High Risk for Infection

Laboratory workers, veterinarians, and other people who are exposed to macaque monkeys or their specimens have a higher risk of getting B virus infection.

Infections in Monkeys

Macaque monkeys housed in primate facilities usually become infected with B virus by the time they reach adulthood. However, even when they are infected with B virus, monkeys typically do not have symptoms, or have just mild disease. B virus can be found in their saliva, feces (poop), urine (pee), or brain or spinal cord tissue. The virus may also be found in the lab. Cells coming from an infected monkey B virus can survive for hours on surfaces, particularly when moist.

Infected monkeys are more likely to shed (pass) the virus when they are stressed or immunosuppressed (weakened immune system).


You can get infected with B virus if you:

  • are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey
  • get an infected monkey’s tissue or fluid on your broken skin or in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • have a needle stick by a contaminated syringe
  • scratch or cut yourself on a contaminated cage or other sharp-edged surface
  • are exposed to the brain (especially), spinal cord, or skull of an infected monkey

Recommendations for Prevention

There are no vaccines available to protect against B virus infection. Experimental vaccines have been evaluated in animal models, but none is being considered for use in people.

While exposures from unpredictable, potentially aggressive animals are not completely preventable, adherence to appropriate laboratory and animal facility protocols greatly reduces the risk of B virus transmission.

  • Work with B virus–susceptible monkeys using humane restraint methods that reduce the risk of bites and scratches.
  • Use proper personal protective equipment – including a lab coat, gloves, and a face shield – when working with macaque monkeys.
  • Cleanse any bites, scratches, or exposure to the tissues or secretions of macaques immediately, as detailed in the First Aid section.
  • Following B virus exposure, send samples from the person who was exposed and the associated monkey for B virus diagnostic testing (see Laboratory Testing section).
  • On external surfaces, B virus is susceptible to 1% sodium hypochlorite, 70% ethanol, 2% glutaraldehyde, and formaldehyde. The virus can also be inactivated by heat treatment at 50°–60°C for at least 30 minutes, by lipid solvents, by exposure to acidic pH, and by detergents.

Note: B virus can remain viable in a monkey’s central nervous system (CNS) tissue and saliva, and in monkey kidney cell cultures. The virus can also survive up to 7 days at 37°C or for weeks at 4°C, and it is stable at −70°C. Studies under conditions of virus desiccation (dry surfaces) have not been done; however, it is presumed that survival times will be comparable to those of other herpesviruses that affect mammals (with typical survival times of 3 to 6 hours).

For more detailed information, refer to the Recommendations for Prevention of and Therapy for Exposure to B virus (Cercopithecine Herpesvirus 1)External

Page last reviewed: January 31, 2019